File No. 4857/11–13.

Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.

No. 636.]

Sir: In reference to my dispatch, No. 610, of the 13th ultimo, I have the honor to transmit herewith inclosed, for the department’s information, a copy of a note addressed to this legation on the 28th of May by the Wai-wu Pu regarding alleged illegal importations of arms by foreign merchants, and a copy of my reply of this date thereto.

I have, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.
[Inclosure 1.—Translation.]

The Prince of Ch’ing to Minister Rockhill.

No. 283.]

Your Excellency: I have the honor to call your attention to the fact that of late lawless characters in the various provinces have been importing arms secretly through foreign merchants. This being without doubt a matter which might endanger the public peace, the customs authorities on several occasions, after investigation, have detained and confiscated the goods, as is required by the regulations. According to treaty stipulations import trade is prohibited in all forbidden articles, and in this class are included gunpowder, cartridges, shot, cannon, large and small arms for hunting, and all kinds of implements of war.

It becomes my duty to bring this matter to your excellency’s attention and to request that you will direct the consuls at the various ports to take note of it and to investigate and prohibit all such unlawful trade. These measures must be adopted in order to prevent disturbances and to protect the public peace. The favor of a reply is requested.

A necessary dispatch.

[Seal of Wai-wu Pu.]
[Inclosure 2.]

Minister Rockhill to the Prince of Ch’ing.

No. 261.]

Your Imperial Highness: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your imperial highness’s note of. May 28, calling my attention to the fact that of late lawless characters have been secretly importing arms into China through foreign merchants, and in which you state that, as this is a menace to the peace of the country, and, since the importation of arms and ammunition of all kinds is prohibited by treaty, you must request that I direct the American consuls to investigate and prohibit all such unlawful trade.

In reply I have the honor to state that the enforcement of the ordinances and rules passed by China prohibiting the importation of arms, ammunition, and [Page 202] munitions of war of every kind, except at the requisition of the Chinese Government or for sale to Chinese duly authorized to purchase them, rests solely with the Imperial Government, and that the consular representatives of the United States of America in China are neither empowered nor able to investigate and prohibit such unlawful trade. As in duty bound I communicated to my Government and to the American consuls in China, for their information, the rules concerning the importation of arms, etc., which your imperial highness sent to me in your note of May 2 last. American citizens engaged in trade with China are presumed to know the treaties between our two countries and the rules and regulations governing trade. They can not plead ignorance as an excuse if they violate them; but in the present case, as I had the honor to remark, the enforcement of the prohibition of the importation of arms and ammunition must rest with the Imperial Government of China, and no responsibility can or will be assumed by the United States of America for violations thereof.

I avail myself, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.